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Teen get lesson in caring and trip to another city

A nonprofit group gives students a chance to connect with mentors, perform community service, and travel to distant locales.

Special to The Miami Herald
On his first visit to San Francisco, Braddock Senior High sophomore Mario Guzman did more than just snap pictures of landmarks.

Mario, 16, joined members of the nonprofit Forever Bloom Alumni Association to package rice at the San Francisco Food Bank.

The organization is dedicated to mentoring and educating middle- and high-school students.

“I finished the community work that we did in San Francisco really feeling and knowing that we all made a difference in other people’s lives,” said Mario, who documented the March spring break trip on camera.

“Not a lot of people can say that, which is why I am so proud of the work we did.”

The spring break trip was part of Forever Bloom’s ADVENTravel program, which provides members affordable group visits across the U.S. and abroad while doing community service. Adult members served as tour guides and mentors.

In all, the 21 members packaged 30,000 pounds of rice in San Francisco.

Mario said the trip not only taught him to be a good Samaritan, but credits FBAA members for teaching him other important lessons.

“They taught us about responsibility,” said Mario, who joined the group five months ago and hopes to one day make a movie with the footage he shot.

Paul W. Bell Middle School teacher Anthony Reid founded the not-for-profit in 2007 to help former students keep in contact.

Reid said his former students are inspiring.

“They made me realize what valuable assets they are for helping to mold other young people who would not normally have the benefit of being around successful students,” Reid wrote in an e-mail.

In South Florida, FBAA members have painted murals and boardwalks for the non-profit Hands on Miami, and taken part in beach clean-ups. At first, the organization was only intended for Bell alumni. But Forever Bloom is now open to anyone.

Named after Bloom’s Taxonomy — an educational method created by educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom — the organization has 253 members.

Interim Vice President Jerica Duverge, 22, said she relished her role.

“It would have been nice to have alumni mentor me while I was in secondary school,” said Duverge, 22, who recently graduated from Florida International University with a degree in nursing.

“So being able to offer any guidance and wisdom to other alumni or current students is a rewarding feeling.”

For information, go to www.foreverbloom.org.

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